Starting a career centred on wine is an excellent way of taking your wine passion or hobby to the next level. It can be a new business opportunity or an exciting career path that aligns with your love for wine. As with all types of employment prospects, you need to be prepared for the challenges of your wine career. You should pour in hard work, dedication, and willingness to learn the trade for you to succeed in this new venture. That said, starting a wine career is no easy transition, but here are some tips that will help you get started smoothly.
Evaluate Your Goals and Expectations
It is vital to ask yourself what you intend to achieve with shifting to a career in the wine industry. Do you want to make a breakthrough in the wine market with new flavours? Do you want to further develop your keen palate for wine taste and help spread the love and appreciation for wine? These are just a few of the questions you can ask to guide you with your goals and expectations. Evaluate your current financial status and the possible career paths you can pursue. If you have an excellent sense of taste and keen flavour distinction ability, a sommelier career path can be one of the best options for you. Of course, you need to study other aspects such as wine theory and wine service to complete your certification as a sommelier. You can take this specialized route from being a bartender or if you are not into business but want to put your wine-tasting skills to good use. If you have a deep respect and familiarity with the wine-making process and have the financial means to start a business, a wine production business is a great pick. While you can’t expect your business to be an overnight success, you need to have strong business acumen, a well-rounded skill set, and an excellent attitude and mindset. Just like the wines you make, your success can build up and become sweeter with time.
Take Wine Industry Courses
Whether you seek a business or employment opportunity, a diploma from Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) or the National Wine School (NWS) shows your commitment to the industry. The wine industry is evolving as more consumers develop various tastes in wine and spirits. As a prospective business owner, it is not enough to settle for basic wine knowledge. You also need to know the major wine regions, varietals and wine laws relevant to the wine industry. If you intend to take the sommelier career path, you need to have an L3 certification or higher to be competitive and thrive in the wine industry. You need a well-rounded knowledge not only of wine tastes but also of the wine history, wine-making process, wine service, and other aspects relevant to a wine career. Certifications help build up your reputation as a wine business owner or professional and strengthen your career in the future.
Gain Relevant Training and Experience
While you may already undergo training during your certification, working in the wine industry exposes you to the wider picture and market of wines. You may be excited to begin your career as a professional sommelier or wine business owner but gaining experience and training in the actual wine market improves your career and business prospects. The wine retail or sales sector is a superb avenue for building up applicable experience and skills to get you started with your career. Taking the long path of gaining experience allows you to enjoy wine more and develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of how it is made.
Choose The Best Career Option for You
As mentioned earlier, taking time to gain experience in different aspects of the wine industry helps widen your horizon and change your perspective of a suitable career. At first, you may be more inclined about the technical side of wine-making, such as the ageing process, fermentation, or grape variety, but you may find some exposure and appreciation of the service side, where a significant part of the wine industry operates. Some of the possible options are discussed below.
Owning a wine business does not necessarily mean you have to cover everything up to the sales of your products. You can focus on the wine production sector, where you can manage either the vineyard or winery. Winemaking is both a science and an art, and you can choose a hands-on role in the winemaking process. Now that you are on the business side of the industry, it will be your turn to provide career growth opportunities for others by hiring teams that will handle the wine production from grape harvesting to bottle packaging.
Wine Distribution and Import
Another lucrative business option you can choose if you do not have the resources to start a wine production facility is to engage in the import and distribution section. Put your business acumen to good use by establishing a connection with retailers, restaurateurs, bars, and other hospitality and beverage businesses. Being in the middle of the trade has its perks for wine distributors and importers. There are nearly endless opportunities for expanding your business networks with producers and retailers. Starting with the local businesses gives you access to markets from other states and regions, which improves your distribution options. The more products you offer to your market, the more relevant and competitive your business becomes.
Wine Sales and Services
Wine sales and services are often considered separate sectors, but they can be closely associated in the wine industry. Aside from sommeliers, there are other lucrative employment prospects in this sector, such as restaurant or bar managers, wine educators, bartenders, sales representatives, and tasting room hosts, to name a few. While this sector involves excellent social skills, sales acumen, and extensive wine knowledge, delivering consumer satisfaction and expanding social connections through wine are some notable perks of this sector.
Start With Small Wineries
While everyone getting into this industry would like to start with the bigger names out there you will have much more success working with smaller wineries and local vineyards. Even if this means taking a part-time position it is still a foot in the door and references from them will definitely help you get into the bigger brands.
Attend Indsutry Tastings
If you follow the various wineries on social media you will see that they all have open days and tasting events, you should try and attend as many of these as you can. Not only will you get a chance to show off your knowledge, but you will also get a taste of what the company is like and the products they offer. This will make your resume to that same company look much more targeted and personal.
Don’t be Money Driven
If you are not entering this industry for the love of wine and its qualities you are going to be bitterly disappointed. In fact, many starting sommeliers are on a basic income wage! That doesn’t mean their wages don’t increase with time and experience, but it is not a career path to get into if you have a nose for money instead of wine.
A career in the wine industry is not for everyone. Like other types of careers, it requires dedication, experience, and a never-ending thirst for knowledge. The prospects of salaries and profits in the wine industry may also vary, but with perseverance and innovation, you can taste remarkable rewards over time, just like the best wines.